By Linda Rosenkrantz
You can always count on a few titters when people hear that macho John Wayne’s birth name was Marion. They’re not aware that when he was born in 1907 Marion—also the name of an infamous Washington DC mayor– was Number 106 on the boys’ list–which also included Leslie, Aubrey, Harley, Merle, Carroll, Cleo, Clair, Lynn, and Pearl (the real name of Wyatt Earp) in the Top 400.
All those names plus many more modern ones have gone to the girls, leading to a lot of talk about gender inequality, of this being a one-way street. Well, maybe it’s time to reverse that trend, for boys to reclaim some of the names they’ve lost.
It’s probably too soon for a name like Ashley, which was the fourth most popular name for girls just a few years ago, or the patronymic Addison, which reached Number 11 in 2010, and for others like Avery and Aubrey that are climbing for girls as we speak. And some once-male-accepted names like Vivian and Evelyn have been seen as strictly feminine for far too long to ever come back.
But here are a few that are not as high on the pink list, some with strong male namesakes, that well might be ready to cross back into the blue, and conceivably work for a 21st century boy.
The once popular girl name Carol has been completely off the girls’ list for more than a decade, and the last remembered Carroll is probably the portrayer of Archie Bunker, Carroll O’Connor, while Carroll Spinney (named because he was born the day after Christmas) has long reigned as the human behind Big Bird and Oscar the Grouch. Carroll is a surname with Irish roots and a musical image; it ranked as high as #164 for boys in the 1930s, then fell off the list in 1977. And for what it’s worth, this spelling was rarely used for girls.
The surname name Dana has always been somewhat split, though it’s a– ending made it a natural to be usurped by the girls, reaching as high as Number 44 in 1971. For boys, Dana peaked at 166 in 1954, then retained a steady, low-key presence until the 90s, when one of its sole visible male bearers was comedian Dana Carvey, then a top star of SNL and Wayne’s World. Boy Dana left the list in 1997, but there could be a potential for a comeback .
A classic 1940s film, The Yearling, which tells the touching story of a boy named Jody and his love for a young deer, did a great deal to popularize this name for boys—it came on the SSA list in 1946 and would reach as high as #162. But, especially in the Jodie Foster spelling, it became more popular for girls. Now, as a cousin to Cody, Brody, and Bodhi, it could make a return for boys.
Boy Kelsey is still very publicly represented by Kelsey Grammer, who was actually born Allen Kelsey Grammer, preferring to go by his middle name, and who named one of his sons Kelsey Gabriel Elias. Kelsey is an English surname with fierce in its meaning. Even while being on the blue list from 1970 to 1996, it really took off for girls in the early 90s, reaching #23 in 1992, perpetuated by female characters on a number of TV shows, but is now down to 344, so might be ripe for reappropriation.
Like several of these names, Leslie has always been more popular for boys in other English-speaking countries, where Lesley is the more common girl spelling. Boy Leslies were not unusual in the US until the early fifties; GWTW’s Leslie Howard was a popular star. Now that Leslie is foundering for girls, a comeback for boys nicknamed Les seems conceivable.
Once upon a time, Lindsay/Lindsey was very much accepted as an upscale male name: Bing Crosby gave it to one of his sons , and it was worn by men characters in several books and plays, reaching Number 629. It was Lindsay Wagner, who hit it big on TV as The Bionic Woman in 1976, that really turned it deeply pink. Recently though, two celebs have given their sons the middle name Lindsay: Vince Vaughn and Julianna Margulies. Could this be an omen? (Whitney has a similar profile, plus cool boyish nickname Whit.)
In listings of traditional Welsh names, Meredith , meaning “great chief,” is strictly male, which it still is in Wales. This began to change in the US via actress Meredith (Family Ties) Baxter and –much more recently—Meredith Viera. Despite its soft sound, it still has boy cred—actor Jay Mohr, who has some Welsh ancestry, used it for his son in 2011, perhaps starting it back on that path.
The first famous Paris was a handsome mythological prince and in Romeo and Juliet, Paris is a titled suitor of Juliet. Centuries later, there emerged media sensation Paris Whitney Hilton, inspirer of countless little girl namesakes from 1985 on, demolishing its male standing. But since girl Paris peaked more than a decade ago, it might be time for the boys reclaim their heritage
Robin began life as a medieval nickname of Robert—think Robin Hood—and has had a number of notable male namesakes, from Robin Williams to writer Robin Moore to musicians Robins Gibb and Thicke. Still #228 for boys in England, Robin, fading for girls here, is due for a comeback here as a boyish bird name.
Taylor and Tyler were two presidential names once equally well used for boys, until Taylor shot up the girls’ list to become the ninth most popular name of the 90s. With hunky namesakes like Taylors Lautner and Kitsch, Taylor the boy –and despite the ubiquitous Taylor Swift–is once again ready for prime time.
What other names do you think are ready for the boys to reclaim?